Interviews with two of our region’s most promising young chefs Alex Bielak, Contributing Food and Drink Editor Photos by Alex Bielak
ho are the best young chefs in the region? At age 27, and both with three wins apiece in the Taste of Burlington, Mitchell Lamb and Will Edsall could both lay legitimate claim to that title. The former is Executive Chef at two sister establishments, Stone House Restaurant in Burlington and Lake House Restaurant in Vineland. The latter, recently departed the Queen’s Head Pub in Burlington, where he had developed a loyal following, has made the short hop up Guelph Line to Campbellville, where he’s taken over the kitchen at the new Risposta Bistro. Both have paid their dues, not in top-end kitchens or under “name” chefs, but rather coming through the ranks of restaurants in Burlington and Niagara. Each benefitted by working for operators who recognised something special in them and who gave them their head. Joseph Nahman has been in the business for 40 years, and, with his wife, owns both the restaurants Lamb oversees. The first day he saw Lamb operate as a line cook at Lake House nine years ago, he could see the potential. “He was born to be a chef, and is one of a kind,” says Nahman. Ed Catley, owner of the Queen’s Head, was so confident in Ed-
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sall’s abilities he gave him carte blanche for the last two and a half years of his four-year tenure. Clearly sad to see him go, he knew it was time for this, “Wonderfully creative young man,” to take on new challenges. Edsall is continuing to consult as needed for Catley as the pub moves forward with a new summer menu, and some new talent in the kitchen. B City asked Lamb and Edsall to cook a dish (see sidebar) they felt best represented them, asking a series of questions designed to explore their life’s journey as passionate, inventive cooks. As radically different as they might appear at first blush, their career paths, culinary philosophies, motivations, and ambitions are remarkably similar: these progressive young Turks are set to lead the region’s diners on culinary journeys they’ve never before contemplated. During our wide-ranging interviews both chefs were articulate, often pausing before responding and choosing or emphasising their words carefully to make their points. Relaxed during the interviews, both were intensely focussed while cooking, and clearly care about and love what they do: enjoy their thoughtful responses to our questions below.